Cricket West Indies Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Johnny Grave has warned that investment is crucial at the grassroots level if Jamaica is to produce more global stars in the sport.
Graves’ comment, although geared at the impact of cricket gaining Olympic status and what it meant for the growth of the sport, proved timely in the context of public criticism faced by the Government for its handling of cricket affairs recently. This follows a refusal to bid for matches in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, which will be hosted by the West Indies and the United States of America next year, as well as owners of the Jamaica Tallawahs franchise deciding to leave Jamaica to re-establish the team in Antigua and Barbuda.
Tallawahs CEO Jeff Miller cited a lack of government support as one of the reasons for the decision.
But Grave told the Jamaica Observer recently that there is value in T20 cricket, especially for youngsters looking to emulate Jamaica’s most famous sporting icons such as Usain Bolt and Chris Gayle, with the latter having a lucrative career playing in some of the biggest T20 leagues across the world.
Grave says these youngsters cannot move on to successful careers unless ideal infrastructure is in place, especially at the grassroots level.
“Hopefully, corporate Jamaica and the Jamaican Government realises that cricket is the second biggest sport in the world and is a huge shop window for the country in terms of their economic development, and for tourism, and all other sorts of commercial activity that sport is something that they want to invest in,” he said.
Grave says that the Olympic Games not only provides a chance at a gold medal for young cricketers but also a catalyst to showcase themselves for opportunities in T20 leagues.
“If I really want to have a lucrative career in sport, cricket is a great option,” he said. “It’s something that also could mean that I could potentially one day win a gold medal representing Jamaica. The 2032 Games will be in Brisbane, Australia, which obviously has huge cricketing culture and history. The next one, potentially, in 2036, there’s talk about India bidding for it. Potentially for the next three Olympics, cricket could be re-established as an Olympic sport and therefore, young people now in Jamaica will think by 2026, I could have a gold medal around my neck in an India Olympics and that’s hopefully going to inspire them.”
Miller told the Jamaica Observer recently that about US$7,000 (just over $1 million) was made available to the Tallawahs in 2020, which was the last time they had “received anything”.